Tree climbing equipment has an important job to do. It helps to keep you safe and allows you to carry out your job efficiently and to a high standard. Without doubt, one of the most vital pieces of equipment is your climbing rope, which is what we’re focusing on here.
In this beginner’s guide, we’re going to run through the main features and design elements to take into consideration when choosing a rope for arborist work.
Your choice of rope diameter really comes down to personal preference, your level of experience, and the equipment you intend to use with it. Although some arborists use thinner, 11-12mm rope, many beginners will prefer to start out with a slightly chunkier 12-13.5mm climbing rope.
Which tends to be a little easier to work with, and is compatible with the majority of climbing equipment too.
The construction of the rope is vital in determining its durability, longevity and feel. Again, this mostly comes down to personal preference, but flexibility is key: look for rope that’s soft and pliable, as it will make your life that much easier.
The higher the number of plaits or strands in the rope, the smoother it’s likely to feel. Ropes with less than 24 strands tend to have a more ‘knobbly’ feel, making them easier to grip and often easier to control when using with various devices; conversely, 24 or 48 plait rope glides more smoothly through climbing hardware, keeping resistance to a minimum, and making for faster ascents and descents.
In terms of the rope’s design, traditionally arborists have used 3 strand rope, but even the most tradition-hardened climbers have now laid this aside (with the exception of a few die-hards who’ll still be cherishing a dusty length in the back of their garage in favour of newer, safer, more efficient designs. Braided rope (including double braid and braid-on-braid varieties) and kernmantle rope are the usual go-to nowadays. Braided is a strong-seller around the world, thanks to its uncompromising strength, affordability and attractive range of colours. By contrast, instead of utilising multiple strands of fibre braided together, kernmantle ropes consist of just one, super-strong sheath wrapped around tightly-packed parallel fibres.
The end of the rope is a further consideration. Most arborists prefer ropes that have one end spliced because this gives a neater, stronger, more reliable termination than using a knot.
Another factor is elongation. The industry standard is to measure how much the rope stretches at 10% of its MBS. Whilst all arborist climbing ropes are classed as ‘static’ or ‘low stretch’, there are variances, and the less elongation, the less energy is wasted when climbing. Look for rope that offers between 6 and 10% elongation.
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